3. Back in Colorado 7.2009

day 9 . July 12. 2009


Actually, these pics were taken last night. After I finished my computer stuff, I went out to eat at the "True Grit Cafe" here in Ridgeway.  The decor is all John Wayne and old cowboy stuff.  But I had one of the best spicy black bean burgers ever (they make their own) along with some sweet potato fries (I'm going to be as big as a mountain when I return to Kansas!).  I got to my campsite, rearranged some stuff, and it began to pour.  I read for a couple of hours before turning out my light, and falling asleep.


Today's trail is called "Blaine Basin".  There is a lower and an upper one.  The guide book says there are three stream crossings; and during yesterdays hike I spoke with someone who had already hiked it, and said there were log bridges across all the streams...no big deal.  And she was right for the trail to the lower basin.


Pic on the left is bridge #1 and pic on the right is bridge #2.


The water on the left is just part of the stream; the pic on the right is #3 bridge...whew!  the last water crossing...or so I thought.

This trail began gently through the forest; not much uphill that you would notice. 


This is a wonderful waterfall as seen from the trail (right pic is taken with the zoom).

The last mile of the trail to the lower basin, climbs up the mountain...not hardly even using switchbacks...but this is the view as you get near the top.


The last mile of the trail to the lower basin, climbs up the mountain...not hardly even using switchbacks...but this is the view as you get near the top.


These are the views in lower Blaine Basin...two really big waterfalls and tons of creeks flowing through the meadow.


And, so I reach another creek to cross, and didn't see a nice log bridge to use.  I looked around trying to choose which was the best log to try to cross on.... I chose the wrong one.  Lesson learned:  if you weren't smart enough to pack your sandals, just walk through the stream...your boots and socks will eventually dry!

This was just a little stream, surrounded by so many different wildflowers....boots were already wet, but no big deal to get across it anyway and headed up to the upper basin.

The trail climbs up next to the stream.  The waterfalls are on both sides of you.

This is upper Blaine Basin...really beautiful (kind of my own panorama pic).  On the right is Mt. Baldy, center is Mt. Sneffels (one of the 14er's peak-baggers climb), and the views of the formations on the left have names like "tea kettle" etc.

The sign posted on the little tree, says "End of Blaine Trail"...guess some people can't figure that out, even when THERE IS NO TRAIL LEFT TO HIKE!

So, it was just me on the trail this morning.  I decided since the skies looked clear, I would just hang out here for about 20 minutes or so, have a drink and a snack and just take it all in!

And, then I saw a little movement on one of the rocks nearby...it was a friendly little marmot (or so he looked from the distance I was at).  As you can see, I watched him awhile, even as he moved around onto different rocks.

I was ready to head back down the mountain, got my stuff together, and started back down the trail; kind of keeping an eye to my right, where I thought the marmot might be hiding.

Then all of a sudden, running up the trail RIGHT TOWARDS ME, was the marmot!  I think I said something like "hey dude!" and then he jumped off the trail and onto the rock directly above my right shoulder (okay, I know it's only a marmot, but it was in a dead run, eyes boring right into me...seemed on a mission of some sort!)

I stopped (actually, I'd stopped when I saw him running towards me) and looked up...there he is!  Showing me his giant teeth....and it didn't look like he was smiling either.  This photo wasn't taken with my zoom, just my regular lens...that's how close he was. 

This is looking down from Upper Basin to the Lower Basin...see all the streams running through the meadow?

Another beautiful waterfall.

I'm not sure what these flowers are called, I know they always kind of hang upside down...but I've always seen them in lavender....there were pink ones mixed in the lavender here...so, so pretty.




I've also seen a lot more pink Indian Paintbrush (on the right) in this area; usually you mostly see the red variety.

Well, not sure what my plans are for tomorrow...guess I'll figure that out tonight!

smile often.


day 10 . July 13. 2009

Today, I spent a lot of time driving.  After leaving Ridgeway, I took the scenic route towards Paonia, driving up hwy. 92 through the Curecanti NRA and next to the Black Canyon National Park.  This is a long, windy and slow drive, but it's beautiful!


 These are some of the views along the drive!

My friend Jill (who lives in Dallas) has a brother, David, that just bought a house near Paonia and it just so happens Jill's mom and her husband, Wendell are staying there for a couple of months.  So, we made connections, and I just dropped in for a visit!

They are having a ball out here!

David's place is "my dream house/place"....wow! is all I can say.  I missed seeing David (and so I couldn't ask him if it would be alright to post pics of his magnificent, amazing, wonderful, near-perfect, sits-on-gorgeous-scenery, next to a crystal-clear creek that makes sweet sounds, so awesomely cool house...so that's why you don't get to see it...just take my word for it...mind-blowing!)


There's a humming bird feeder right outside of the upper story deck...and the three of us couldn't get enough "bird watching" time....these little hummers-- there were at least a dozen, and at least three different varieties, were so much fun to watch!


David's yard is Colorado-primitive...you see this a lot out here...and I think it just beautiful.  He had some nice flowers in his yard....

..and this was what was in his grill....guess he hasn't had the opportunity to use for cooking lately.

Dorolyn and Wendell were so much fun to visit with...we stayed up until the wee hours of the morning just catching up (I just recently saw them in Dallas, in May, at Zak (Jill's sons) wedding...but we didn't get time just to visit....this was great!  They took me on a tour around David's place, Wendell made us hot chocolate, then they offered me a bed for the night (that felt really good!) and I took a shower this morning (waaaayyy nice), then Wendell made hot oatmeal with apples and walnuts...yummy.  We visited longer over coffee, hugged and said goodbye.  I hope to see David next time....I'm SOOOOOO envious of him, but super-happy for him too!


I headed south from David's, past Paonia State Park (pic on the left) and turned onto one of my favorite roads....Kebler Pass.  It's just a gentle dirt/gravel road, lined with sunflowers and aspens...so very peaceful (okay, I'll admit, then is when I turned my ipod to John Tesh's Montery Nights...perfect "scenery" music!)


My favorite pass leads to my favorite Colorado town...Crested Butte.  It started raining as soon as I hit town, but then sort of stopped and cleared up while I was eating lunch.


Then I took my favorite little Colorado road...Gothic Road...to my favorite little campsite....this will be the 3rd year in a row it's been waiting for me to arrive....


As I sit here typing on my computer, in my car, it's started to hail on me...of course, I don't pitch my tent back in the trees like most people, so I'm watching it blow in the wind...hopefully I staked it well.  I like to be in the open so I can get first sun in the morning.

Today was my first non-hiking day, I decided with the weather being icky, my late, late start because of the drive, and my teenie-tiny aches and pains from yesterday's lost battle with the log, I would take the day off.  I did get my bike out and biked down the road a little ways, but then had to hurry back and get it tucked in the car safely before the storm came.

So, well see what tomorrow brings....hopefully many wonderful things for all of us!

PS:  When I finally got internet service, it's about an hour after I initially wrote today's entry.  The sun is out, shining brightly, everyone's come back out onto the roads to "play"....it's going to be a beautiful night!


day 11 . July 14. 2009

The 401...that's what the name of today's trail is.  Is mostly a mountain bikers trail...well, a lot more bikers use it than hikers.  This trail starts at one end of Gothic Road and goes to Schofield Pass...some bikers go all the way and back on the same trail, some ride the road out to Schofield Pass, then take the trail back down towards Gothic...there's lots of choices. 

Last year, Danny and I hiked the road, then hiked the trail starting at Schofield Pass. The trail then goes through a forest, then up on top of the mountain in the open, then switchbacks down and down on an aspen lined trail....you can then keep going, or hop off the trail at Rustlers Gulch trailhead.  There was so much snow last year in the forest part of the trail, we hiked over about 40 snow piles and had a difficult time finding any sort of trail, until we got to the top.

This year, I decided to begin at the Rustler's Gulch TH and do our same route...only in reverse order.  I was getting a later start and wanted to finish hiking up high in case any storms rolled in...also, I knew I'd encounter quite a few mountain bikers on the trail, and I figured I'd be on the trail earlier than most of them, so by starting out hiking this route, I would avoid more bikers.

My first and only creek crossing...it was just a "foot bath"...nice and easy.


The trail begins switch backing up through a beautiful aspen grove, with wild flowers waist to shoulder height on both sides of the trail.


The 360 views are incredible! 

See where the road is in the pic below?  There is a little white spot near the trees where the roads goes down hill....it's the Hotel Mazda!  I've hiked up quite a ways from my car and tent.



The trail eventually works it way out of the aspens, into a huge open area, way up high....the views just keep getting better!


This is a little waterfall you cross; the pic on the left is looking up the mountain (snow is still on the saddle) and the pic on the right is looking down (you can see where the water has carved it's way through the still existing snow).  (Remember this waterfall for later in today's posting.)


I finally reached the highest point on the trail, having been passed by about 15 bikers.  Then I saw this trail....going north, off towards the Maroon Bells.  I took it for a little bit, then turned around knowing this is not the trail I'd reported to Danny I would be on.  But I was so perplexed...why didn't I know about this trail and where exactly did it go? mmmm...when I got back to the junction, there was a biker there reviewing his map, so we visited a few minutes (he was originally from Germany, but has been living and working in Chicago for the past 10 years.  We had a small debate over which state was the worst to live in...Kansas or Illinois (as far as active-things to do like hiking and biking) but I was a good state citizen and didn't argue him into the ground...then he told me he'd been hiking and biking in Oregon...where and what places to go to next time I was there...a much better conversation)....well anyway, I asked to see his map, and found out where the trail went to.  I would have love to have hiked it (I was right there!), but opted for being responsible (such a rare thing) instead and stayed on the trail I'd originally planned to hike.

I came to the place where Danny and I had eaten lunch together last year...these pics don't even begin to show how truly beautiful the surrounding mountains are.  I sat and ate lunch, missing Danny even more, wishing he was with me to share all of this.


The trail then begins to work it's way down through a pine forest.  So much easier this year than last...the pic on the right is the only snow I had to walk through.

The trail ends at the top of the pass, and that's where I started hiking the road.


After I'd hiked down the road a little ways (I had a long way to go on this road) I noticed a trail heading down towards Emerald Lake.  I'd never noticed it before, so I took it.  They call this Emerald Lake, because the water is such a gorgeous shade of green!

The lake trail ends by heading back up to the road....you all remember me talking about the scary road I drove one year?  I keep thinking every time I see it, it won't be as scary and I'll be able to drive it WITHOUT FEARING FOR MY LIFE....but no, it's still really scary looking as I walk it today.  The Hotel Mazda won't be venturing out on this!


Remember the waterfall pics from the trail (when I was up high?)  This is the view from the bottom; on the road.  The pic on the left is taken with the zoom, but the one on the right is normal.....it's a long way up!

Another beautiful waterfall on the other side of the road.


Today's flowers...ever see soooo many Columbine together?


This one is really cool and I don't remember seeing it before.

So, this is in Gothic...a little town that's the home of the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory.  Where 100 or more students, researchers, teachers, etc. come each summer to study the flora, fauna, and some insects and animals along Gothic Road and in the Crested Butte area.

I've decided, even though I took mostly horticulture classes in college, (a million years ago), I am pretty dumb about the names of all of these beautiful flowers I've been seeing for so many years.  So, I stopped in and bought a wildflower book (although, I won't be hiking with it...it weighs a ton!)

This is today's "rear-view" mirror shot.  After my hike, I was pretty wiped out.  And since the flies in my camp site thought I was lunch, I parked in a nice shady area, sat in the car and read...and couldn't take my eyes off the view in the mirror.

The good news and the bad news....I'm sitting here in the town of Crested Butte, came in to buy MORE ICE (I can't believe how fast it melts) and some firewood...and looked down at my rear tire...which didn't look quite right...it had 10# of air in it.  Of course it was almost 5pm, but I made it to a tire-fixing place and the guy there was getting ready to close, but was soooo nice.  He put lots of air in it and told me to come back in the morning.  I told him I was camped all the way down Gothic road (about 6 miles down a gravel-dirt road).  He said to hang out in town for a couple of hours and if the tire got low, he would leave his air compressor hose out for me, and if it goes flat, I was welcome to camp in his business driveway for the night....I guess that's the good news.  (Even though my tent is still at the campsite, I did throw my sleeping bag in the car...so I am prepared!)

So, as soon as I'm done with today's posting, I'm going to check my tire.  Either way, I can't do the hike I was headed for really early in the morning....so, we'll all just wait and be surprised!

(And of course, tonight I TOLD MYSELF I WAS NOT GOING TO EAT DINNER OUT, but then when I got "stuck" here, I ate at a great little place called the Ginger Cafe...I had Thai Fried Rice...full of wonderful veggies...ummm good!)

Hope your days are filled with good news...and NO bad stuff!


day 12 . July 15. 2009

I woke up really early this morning and drove into town (my tire hadn't leaked too much, so I drove back out to my tent for the night).  I had breakfast at McGills, then headed over to the tire-fix-it shop.  They told me it would be about 90 minutes, so I hopped on a bus and headed up to Mt. Crested Butte...the ski area.

There are free shuttle busses here...and they're really nice.  Each bus is painted by a different artist, so not only are they super convenient, it's also pretty cool to see them buzzing around town.


I took my book and went to the Camp 4 Coffee house (there is also one in town, but all the seating is outside, which is wonderful if it's not kind of freezing in the morning), which has a nice indoor seating area.  I got to visiting with the Barista, who moved here from Salida...it was great comparing notes not only on hikes here in Crested Butte, but also in the Collegiate Peaks...where I think I'm headed at some point in this trip.


Mt. Crested Butte...last year I climbed to the top of it...pretty fun!

I took the bus back to town and walked to the tire place and picked up my car.  They found a great big nail in it...I was so lucky that the tire didn't strand me somewhere.  The guys at the shop were super nice too.


I bought some local cherries (just picked from an orchard in Hotchkiss....on the other side of Kebler Pass)....boy...they are great!

It was almost noon, and the forecast had been for storms this afternoon...and the skies looked kind of iffy.  So, I nixed hiking, and broke out the bike.  I went on a trail called "Lower Loop"....it starts as a wide walking/biking path, really nice.  I had rented a bike last year, and ridden on it a little ways, but today I was hoping to do more (weather permitting...and more to the point....muscles permitting).

When I first started riding (like in the first 50 feet), I thought, OMG!  I hope I can go a little farther....don't know if I'd overused my muscles yesterday, or just HADN'T used my "biking" muscles for awhile...but, it didn't feel very easy at all.

I stopped and made an adjustment to the wheel, and I think that helped a lot, plus then I started to go downhill.


The trail runs parallel to the Slate River...beautiful, meandering stream that goes through the valley.  As I approached the area in the pic on the left, I saw three women and about 7 kids.  They were taking a turn onto a narrow dirt path (a true mountain bike path) and so I asked her about it...I mentioned I hadn't ever really done any biking on a real mountain bike trail....she was enthusiastic and told me to just follow them and try it....and so I did!

The one trail (before the turn off onto the mountain bike trail) ends here...right into the river!  So, it was time to turn around, and follow the friendly lady, her friends, and all their kids.

YEAH!!  I did it...my first real trail (okay, if any serious mountain bikers are reading this, they're probably laughing...but everyone has to start somewhere!)

I was peddeling like crazy to get through all of these water holes...made it through every one of them.

Another wonderful view of the Slate River...the mountains in the background are drop dead beautiful!


Then there was a little bridge to cross and you were out on Slate River Road (pic on left; one of the many roads I would love to live on if I was lucky enough to live in CB).  You pass a little pond along side of the road.

I was so pumped when I got back to my car!

I goofed around in town a little, but then drove up to Mt. Crested Butte where there was a free concert tonight.


They've created a big new "play" area since I was here last year; from left to right....an ice rink, a rock climbing pillar, and a bungee jumping thingy.  The kids using them were having a great time.

Then it time for the concert.  I usually try to attend these...most little mountain towns have them on a weekly basis.  Tonight's band was from...get this...Kansas City.  They're called "The Elders" ...a Celtic band....my friend Sherri Rose and her husband have attended several of their concerts.  They were good and the atmosphere was fun.

I took my gouda, bread and cherries and enjoyed the evening.

Tomorrow, I think I will be hitting the trail really early...the hike I think I'm taking is a long one.

Sweet dreams.


day 13 . July 16. 2009


The morning sun shining on the mountains.

The trail I'm hiking today, is one I did of last year, but I didn't do all of it.  I didn't hike all the way to the lake, in hopes Danny would come back with me this year and we could see it for the first time together.  Well, he didn't come, so I decided I would try and make all the way to the Lake today.

The trail head is off of Slate River Road (the one I biked on yesterday).


I ALWAYS see marmots on this road!  Don't they look like there posing?

The very first thing you do is cross the river.  It's so much lower this year compared to last...but just as freezing cold!  ( I think my feet got back to normal temp by the time I'd finished hiking about a mile.)


The name of this trail is "Oh Be Joyful" and the stream it follows is the same name.  There are tons of waterfalls along this trail.

Well, according to the trail register, where you sign in, I'm the first one on the trail today (as usual!).


More waterfalls.


The trail climbs a nasty, rocky dirt road for the first mile, then opens up into the valley...it's great hiking and fairly easy; just barely climbing.


I saw a couple of deer earlier, but managed to snap a pic of these two before they bounded up the hill.

The view looking back down the valley.  I think this pass is called "Gunsight Pass".

A couple of easy stream crossings.

Out of the valley and into the forest....the trail now begins to climb...


I think this the point I made it to last year.  But there was so much more water last year, it covered this entire area...you couldn't take a step or two without sinking in water.

After about 45 more minutes of climbing (my hamstrings were singing to me...and it wasn't a nice song!), I was nearing the lake.  As I approached the lake, I was thinking, that this would be a good time to fulfill a dream I've had to swim or bathe in a mountain lake....I could see the trail way below me and knew no one was coming behind me.

Right before you get to the lake, the trail meanders through some shoulder high bushes....and when I popped out on the other side next to the lake....there were 3 backpackers standing there!  Not your run of the mill backpackers....one was a guy in a tucked-in plaid cotton shirt with a big brimmed hat on; the two women with him, were in calico long dresses with caps on their heads! 

I decided this was NOT THE TIME to strip and dip (Not sure if I would have done it anyway; I stuck my hand in to check the temp of the water and it was freezing cold!  ....I know, I know, what should I have expected...but the dream stays alive!)


The lake was small and really pretty;


...with crystal clear water.  In the pic on the left, you can see a fish swimming by...and you can't tell it by the one on the right, but the water suddenly gets really deep.

I also saw a marmot near the bottom of this lake...it was just floating...kind of deep...I originally took a pic of it...but then got to wondering...is it in water-hibernation? water-hypnosis? a water-yoga pose?  just holding it's breath?....or did it even have a pulse?  I was concerned that the it was the latter...so I deleted the picture in honor of the marmot.

Timer portrait.

On the way down, I finally passed two other couples, two guys taking wild flower photos, a couple fishing and all these women riding horses.  This wasn't a "pay-for-ride"....I think these women own their own horses and just go riding together as a hobby; another fun thing to do out here in the mountains.


More waterfalls on the way back...yes, I know they are probably the same ones I saw on the way up...but they're beautiful GOING AND COMING!


There's always wildflowers around...so sweet and delicate!

This was my longest hike so far...somewhere between 12.5 and 13 miles and one toe was beginning to get sore...and my legs were ready for a break...and I did kind of smell (it's been awhile since I showered).

So, when at the end of the hike, it was time to put on my sandals and cross the river, I got out my bandanna, and washed off everything that was not covered.  I let the freezing water numb by toe, got my hair all wet, washed my dirty legs off...and felt better (even though I didn't use soap; it was better than nothing).

When I was walking over to my car...not really limping, but sort of hobbling on the bad toe, an elderly woman was sitting in a car in the shade, and as I walked by she rolled down her window, and offering me a bunch of grapes, said "You look like you could use these".  I said "thank you"....and then ate the sweetest grapes I've ever eaten.

I drove into town, ate at the Last Steep, and now am working on the website.

I'm not sure what I'll be doing tomorrow....but I do believe a shower and a load of laundry are in the plan....I have company coming.

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